Index 2009 pre-show

Lu Buchanan promises to match the design professionals with clients

Index is prepared to decline exhibitors who's products or services aren't 'right'
Index is prepared to decline exhibitors who's products or services aren't 'right'
Index's floor plan needed reworking to cater to people who specialise in efficient use of space
Index's floor plan needed reworking to cater to people who specialise in efficient use of space
Buchanan's VIP service will connect cutting edge designers with serious clients
Buchanan's VIP service will connect cutting edge designers with serious clients

New exhibition director promises to match the right design professionals with clients looking to seal deals

A new team signifies a whole new direction for Index, according to exhibition director, Lu Buchanan. A successful formula that could do with a refresh was what Buchanan encountered when she joined the show in November. To that end, Buchanan was brought in to assess the Index experience and determine how to move it into the future.

“It is a fabulous show but, as with anything, things need to evolve,” said Buchanan. “My vision, and I’m working on a three- to five-year plan starting this year, is to give it a very different look and feel.”

Priority number one

Buchanan’s first—and perhaps most visible priority—is to ensure that the show looks the part. In fact, she and her team have implemented a process that will allow them to scrutinize every product looking to be included in the show and make a determination on its appropriateness for this market and point in time.

What this means for design professionals—whether they’re architects, interior designers or engineers—is that when they visit Index 2009, they’ll be seeing only those products that have been deemed appropriate for designing in a Middle Eastern context. Put simply, all those questions about whether or not a certain product or style is kitschy or banal or pastiche will be answered, just by virtue of their presence.

“If someone calls me and wants to book a stand but their products really aren’t right, then it’s very difficult but we have to decline,” explained Buchanan. “We have a process whereby every single exhibitor has to provide us with details on every single product that they want to bring on. We are monitoring everything.”

Advice from the pros

In an effort to achieve a specified level of appropriateness—in products, show features and learning opportunities—Buchanan has enlisted the help of professionals.

“All the topics will be based around research that we are doing with the visitors. I’ve taken on a research company to assess everything. They are calling all of our exhibitors and as many visitors as they can and asking what they liked and what they didn’t like last year.”

The impetus for such a drastic and costly measure is the fact that Index has suffered from an identity crisis of sorts, seemingly unsure whether to brand itself a trade or consumer event. But, after getting some advice from her research consultants, Buchanan is clear about what Index is and is not. She’s also very clear about how she’ll move forward with the show.

“There was kind of a blurred line—was it a trade show, was it a consumer show? We are making it really clear that it is a trade show. It’s a show where people will come to make money and network with each other in a business setting.”

Business: First and foremost

In an effort to ensure that interested visitors and potential buyers are being connected to the right design professionals and their products and services, Buchanan is pulling out all the stops for Index 2009.

“We are organising a VIP programme whereby we are inviting the key buyers and specifiers for the projects that are ongoing for the next several years,” explained Buchanan. “If a potential VIP says they are interested in certain types of products and certain types of exhibitors, we’ll get them to the event, we’ll put them in a VIP lounge, we’ll do product location for them and we’ll actually take them around the show floor on very specific guided tours in order to introduce them to the most appropriate exhibitors.”

The aim of such a bespoke service is simple, said Buchanan. Offering that level of service is the only way to ensure that the visitor gets to see first hand the products and services they want and the exhibitors get to meet the right type visitors. “It’s about matching needs,” said Buchanan.

Mr. Visitor, I’d like you to meet MS. Designer & Ms. Architect...

In designing an industry-leading exhibition for people who specialise in efficient planning and effective use of space, Buchanan first had to take an objective look at the existing floor plan.

She found was that while Index’s greatest strength is its size (1,782 exhibitors in 2008) that can also be its biggest weakness as the show can be confusing to navigate.

“It was really difficult to navigate as a visitor. Because we don’t sectorise yet—we may do in the future but we don’t yet—it was difficult. If someone wanted to come in and find lighting and carpeting, how would they do that?

In addressing this issue, Buchanan and her team drew upon the wonders of technology to achieve the level of connectedness they sought. For the 2009 show, for the first time for a Middle East exhibition, visitors can visit the Index website (, choose which products or services they’d like to see and get a printable route created for them.

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